Christian Movie Reviews - Family Friendly Entertainment

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Chan and Li Unite in an Action-Packed “Forbidden Kingdom”

  • Lisa Rice Contributing Writer
  • 2008 18 Apr
Chan and Li Unite in an Action-Packed “Forbidden Kingdom”

Release Date:  April 18, 2008
Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of martial arts action and some violence)
Genre:  Action/Adventure, Science Fiction/Fantasy
Run Time:  113 minutes
Director:  Rob Minkoff
Actors:  Michael Angarano, Morgan Benoit, Jackie Chan, Collin Chou, Bingbing Li, Jet Li, Yifei Liu

Karate kicks … stick fights … slo-mo flips through the air … breathtaking costumes … dramatic jumps between the modern-day city of Boston and the countryside of ancient China. 

Such is the imagery in the high-budget, star-studded new kung fu movie that brings together for the first time ever, Jackie Chan (Rush Hour 3) and Jet Li (Fearless). Despite a storyline that’s about 20 percent plot and 80 percent fighting, kung fu movies have proven to be hits in America, and The Forbidden Kingdom should be no exception.

Similar to The Karate Kid, the protagonist in The Forbidden Kingdom must study and learn under the “greats,” enduring constant life-and-death opposition if he is to end up a well-trained fighting hero. American teenager Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano, Snow Angels) is consumed with Hong Kong cinema and kung fu classics. When a group of Boston thugs finds out that Jason has been stealing away to spend time with an old karate master, they force him to take them to the master’s apartment, where they rob and shoot him. Before he passes out, the master challenges Jason to return a certain kung fu fighting stick to its rightful owner.

In a Chinatown pawnshop, Jason finds the legendary stick weapon, rumored to have once belonged to the Chinese sage and warrior, the Monkey King (Jet Li). With the lost relic in hand, Jason is shocked to find himself traveling back to ancient China where he connects with a crew of misfit warriors from martial arts lore, including Lu Yan (Jackie Chan), whose elixir (and downfall) is wine, the “silent monk” (also Jet Li), and the beautiful but fierce Golden Sparrow (Yifei Liu) whose quest for revenge ties her to the team.  Together they undertake a perilous journey to free the imprisoned Monkey King from his 500-year captivity by the powerful Jade War Lord (Collin Chau) and restore to him his magical weapon and rightful position in the empire. Only through great discipline in assimilating the ancient kung fu concepts can Jason hope to prevail in his quest and find his way back to Boston.

Shot on location in China, The Forbidden Kingdom takes your breath away with its captivating settings (parched deserts, luscious rainforests, vast stone temples) and exquisite costumes. It’s definitely Oscar worthy, in regards to costuming and choreography (Wing Pin Yuen’s masterful touch). In spots, the movie feels like a Tolkein epic as it spotlights a world of immortals, prophecies, time-and-space travel, exotic locations, and a valiant quest to protect a sacred object.

Directed by Rob Minkoff (The Haunted Mansion), produced by Casey Silver (Leatherheads) and written by John Fusco (Hidalgo), The Forbidden Kingdom has that cool, slow-motion Matrix feel during the fighting—similar to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon—and is based on the traditional Chinese legend of the Monkey King.  

As with many other legend-based, Eastern-origin movies, there’s a strong emphasis on magic and a few portrayals of Buddhism.  Several characters are immortal, able to travel through time and space with ease, but like the gods of Greek mythology these immortals have human failings, fears, and weaknesses.  One of the prominent characters is a witch, who uses her icy intimidation and a terrifying whip to get her way.

Families will want to take caution regarding the violence in The Forbidden Kingdom, as the vast majority of the movie portrays fighting with fists, feet, sticks, swords, wooden staffs, bows and arrows, darts, etc.  Though some characters are wounded or killed, however, it’s not really a bloody movie.  There are a few light obscenities and lots of screaming and yelling.  So between the violence, the screaming, and the ancient Eastern magic portrayals, parents should exercise caution—especially with younger children. 

Those who are already Jackie Chan and Jet Li fans will not mind the need for “willing suspension of disbelief” that’s required for the sometimes far-fetched fight scenes, and the smattering of humor helps fill in where the plot may be lacking.  All in all, this highly-anticipated film ranks right up there with the other kung fu movies of the past couple decades and should be well received by die-hard fans and a new generation of martial arts lovers.


  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Wine portrayed frequently, with the Jackie Chan character addicted to it as the source of his power and immortality.
  • Language:  A few mild obscenities; lots of the yelling and screaming typical of kung fu action films.
  • Sex:  None.
  • Violence:  Prevalent, with the vast majority of the movie being kung fu fights.  There are also a couple street fights in Boston, with intimidating thugs shooting and robbing an old man.  A witch uses a terrifying whip on her victims.
  • Religion/Worldview:  Buddhism and ancient magic themes portrayed.